What are malas?
As aids to the repetition of sacred sounds, malas help deepen meditation and support mindful and spiritual practices. A mala, also known as a japa mala, is a necklace strung with 108 beads, plus the guru bead, which is indicated with a tassel. A mantra, sacred sound or affirmation is repeated while rotating the mala through the fingers, one bead at a time. The number 108 is particularly auspicious and 108 repetitions of your sacred sound or affirmation will have peaceful and calming effects on your mind and body.
Malas are mentioned in Hindu scriptures and artwork that predate Buddhism, but are traditionally used extensively as a method to connect with the Divine in both religions. The Catholic religion uses rosaries in a similar way. With the growing trend of Yoga in the West, malas have become a meditation tool as well as a fashion statement, as many are beautifully strung with Rudraksha, gemstones, and sandalwood beads.
Our dear friend and teacher, Rev. Swami Bhajanandand Maharaj, head pujari at Kali Mandir in Laguna Beach, California, explained a beautiful way to think of malas and their benefits. To paraphrase Swamiji: You may wear your mala after doing japa. As you bring the mala over your head, imagine putting a protective ring of energy around you. The mala will be full of the positive vibrations that your mantra has given it, making it powerful to wear in remembrance of the Divine.
There are so many styles of malas, with more people coming up with creative combinations of gemstones and traditional materials. Clear quartz has been used for centuries in India in malas intended for use with a Shakti mantra. Rudraksha beads are usually associated with Shiva mantras and sandalwood is associated with Vishnu mantras. Of course, traditional practices haves changed with modern times. Malas of all types may now be used by anyone, regardless of religion, class, or sect.
What is japa?
Japa is the repetition of a sacred name, or a sacred phrase, which is- called a mantra. Japa is usually done in rounds of 108 repetitions at a time on the mala - hence the 108 beads on a mala. Traditionally, the mantra is given by a guru to the disciple and it is not shared with anyone else. This is a timeless tradition and one that is highly recommended.
Instructions for using your mala:
To begin using your mala, sit comfortably on the floor in your meditation space.
Hold your mala with your right hand.
- Put the mala between your index and middle fingers, then let it hang. Try not to let it touch the ground. We recommend holding it near your heart level.
- Make sure the tassel is in between your fingers. You will start with the bead immediately following the tassel.
- Take your thumb and pull the bead towards you as you repeat a mantra or affirmation.
Here are some great mantras if you don't have your own:
Om Namah Shivaya
Om Mane Padme Hum
- Keep pulling the beads towards you with your thumb, repeating your mantra on each bead. Once you reach the tassel, you have completed a round of 108 repetitions.
- When you finish one round, turn the mala around and begin the cycle again.
When you are finished, either wear your mala or place it in a special, clean place that is meant just for the mala.
Malas are purposeful, meaningful and sacred. Enjoy the positive vibrations that malas bring forth!
What's so special about our Malas?
1: Our malas are fair trade!
2: We get our gemstones certified by GIA (Gemological Institute of America: https://www.gia.edu/) - which we must say is something most cannot boast about.
3: Compared with malas from other sellers, ours are very affordable. Our beautiful malas are the same high quality as those sold at two or three times our price!